SF/DUP MAZE SPAT ‘SOURING POLITICAL PROCESS’, SAYS SDLP LEADER

Dr Alasdair McDonnell says a Sinn Fein/ DUP row over the Maze is not helping Northern Ireland's cause

Dr Alasdair McDonnell says a Sinn Fein/ DUP row over the Maze is not helping Northern Ireland’s cause

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell has rounded on Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness over their public fighting about the Maze peace centre.

The First Minister sent a letter last week to his party’s MLAs, MPs and MEP Diane Dodds saying he was pulling out of the plans to build a peace and reconciliation centre on the site of the former Maze prison.

The DUP leader said the final straw for him was Sinn Fein’s “insensitivity” over an IRA commemoration parade to two Provo bombers killed by their own device.

His decision was cheered by unionists who claimed the centre would become a ‘shrine to terrorists’.

However, deputy first minister Martin McGuinnness said Mr Robionson’s U-turn was a “mistake”.

SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said the public spat was not helping the people of Northern Ireland.

“Last week we saw how Peter Robinson, viewing the mob violence in Belfast from his American holiday, played to the gallery of unionist extremism and made a fundamental u-turn on the Maze in a bid to appease this minority,” said the south Belfast MP.

“Now days later we see his deputy Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness similarly move to appease his party who are obviously demanding an angry response over the airwaves.

“This public fighting does nothing to aid or assist the ordinary people of the north who we were all elected to serve.

“All it does is to sour the political process and make the challenging and necessary decisions that we as political leaders face all the more difficult.

“The Deputy First Minister has expressed optimism about the Richard Haass talks process.

“But he and Peter Robinson need to realise that that optimism is ill founded if they consistently refuse to show real leadership, pander to the extremes, and continue to fail to see beyond the narrow confines of their own party self-interest,” added Dr McDonnell.

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